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January Talking Meme, Day 13

Diebirchen - How about Xander's hypocrisy regarding Spike's attempted rape of Buffy, when hyena Xander tried exactly the same thing, made no attempt at apology, and lied about not remembering. It's always pissed me off!

This is one of those subjects that gets both sides mad at me, alas.

OK, let's look at "The Pack." There are two big questions: Is Xander responsible for his actions, and should he have lied about remembering what he'd done? In regards to the first question, I don't think he's responsible. He's being at least partially controlled by an outside force. We can argue about the degree to which he's controlled, but I don't think this is a case where the argument that Xander is just giving in to base urges he already has will hold water, unless we also posit that he and his fellow possessees all secretly lust for human flesh. (I'm not saying that the form his actions take isn't influenced by Xander's unrequited love for Buffy and his resentment of Angel.)

In regards to the second question, I think Xander's appalled and embarrassed by what he did under the influence, and afraid it will ruin his friendship with Buffy. So he takes the easy way out. It's understandable, if cowardly. Should he have admitted it? In terms of his relationship with Buffy and Willow (and let's not forget, he's also getting an out from having been gratuitously cruel to Willow) I don't think there's any way to tell if it would have done more harm than good. Maybe it would have made everything weird and uncomfortable between them, perhaps to an irreparable degree. Or maybe not. We'll never know. In terms of Xander's own personal growth, though, I think he would have been better off manning up and telling the truth. Getting away with this lie, I suspect, emboldens Xander to tell more later -- not just to others, but to himself.

Moving on to "Seeing Red." To the question of whether or not Spike's responsible for his actions, my answer has to be yes. I've heard some people make the argument that as a vampire, Spike is just as much 'controlled' by a demon as Xander was, but I don't buy that. Spike has demonstrated numerous times that even without a soul, he can choose to do the right thing, even if his reasons for doing so are not necessarily pure altruism. He's not being controlled by anything outside himself, unless you count Demon Rum, which I don't, because he made the choice to get drunk.

So the final question is, is Xander being a hypocrite when he gets angry with Spike for trying to rape Buffy? And my answer to that is... not exactly?

The two situations aren't identical. Xander wasn't in charge of his own actions; Spike was. But I think it's a little more complicated than that. Xander has a tendency to get mad at people who share his flaws. (So does Buffy.) For example, his lecture to Buffy in "Into the Woods" for taking Riley for granted when that's exactly what he was doing with Anya. One of the downsides of Xander pretending to forget what happened is that he never gets to talk about the incident with anyone. So I would not be awfully surprised if, deep down inside, he wonders if it was his fault, if the hyaena was only enabling him to do what he'd wanted to do all along. We see in "Hells Bells" that Xander's deepest fears is that he'll end up like his father, abusing the woman in his life. The hyaena incident can't have made him any less afraid of that.

And here's Spike. Soulless vampire Spike, upon whom it's safe, even semi-approved, to vent his self-hatred, rage, and fear. Who does exactly what Xander's secretly afraid he might do/have done. So of course Xander's going to externalize his feelings about himself on Spike.

(Xander and Buffy have a LOT in common.)

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( 22 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 15th, 2014 04:25 am (UTC)
Very well thought out pov there.

Jan. 17th, 2014 02:47 am (UTC)
Jan. 15th, 2014 08:19 am (UTC)
I'm on the side that thinks you're made of awesome.
Jan. 17th, 2014 02:47 am (UTC)
Jan. 15th, 2014 09:55 am (UTC)
Suddenly Xander's actions make a lot more sense to me. Thanks for that.
Jan. 17th, 2014 02:47 am (UTC)
De nada!
Jan. 15th, 2014 10:52 am (UTC)
On the whole, I agree with you. I also think that Spike's acceptance of sole responsibility for the AR (which is never in question, and yes I do include his rant in the crypt afterwards) is the one saving grace of that whole sorry storyline.
Jan. 15th, 2014 11:47 am (UTC)
THIS. Totally.
Jan. 17th, 2014 02:49 am (UTC)
Oh, definitely. It occurs to me that another thing Buffy and Xander have in common is that they both get to conceal their worst moments from the world and never really have to deal with the consequences...
Jan. 17th, 2014 09:50 am (UTC)
This is true, to some extent, though taking everything into account, Spike's worst moments (which were probably way worse than the AR) trump theirs by miles. So he needed to fess up more.

That doesn't really work - ie. it shouldn't be a matter of degree - but I hope you get what I mean.

Edited at 2014-01-17 09:51 am (UTC)
Jan. 15th, 2014 11:46 am (UTC)
I generally agree with you. I do think that Spike has a lot of responsability for his actions in SR and he knows it and tries to change because he knows it.

I say "a lot" of responsability because, while I totally agree that he has agency and that he could chose differently there are other factors involved: he, as a vampire, doesn't know when violence ends and love begins - nobody taught him that - and there is also the "demon factor" to some extend. I agree that he has agency but he's still a demon, so I think that his actions are intrinsecally violent and that he's under an influence in a way. (Like when you act after drinking a few beers. It's still totally you - and some say that he's even your "true" self - but you have a lot less control and ability to restrain yourself. I'm a non-drinker but I guess that the comparison works XD) I'm not trying to justify him in anyway, but I believe that ... there is some kind of difference between humans and vampires' agency, I guess.

Nice observation about Buffy and Xander having a lot in common! I've never thought about that and it's strange: while Buffy is my favourite female character Xander is my least favourite scoobie, but I can see your point.
Very insightful.
Jan. 17th, 2014 02:54 am (UTC)
Oh, I agree that Spike being a soulless demon makes him far more likely to resort to violence when pushed to the brink. The miracle is that he held out that long, all things considered. I feel like I understand why both Xander and Spike did the bad things they did, and I sympathize with both of them (to different degrees) but I have to acknowledge that the things they did are still bad.
Jan. 17th, 2014 05:34 pm (UTC)
I sympathize with Xander during S4 and S5, even if the Into the Woods speech was totally about him. I can sympathize with him in Hells Bells even if Anya is one of my most favourite characters. Still I loathe his attitude sometimes, when he gets all judgemental. Buffy and Willow are judgemental too in different occasions, but I feel that they are much more understandable, for some reasons, while Xander's judgy mode makes me nervous. But, you know, I don't "bash" him or think that he's the worst ever.

*putting my Anya icon because I mentioned her and it feels related*
Jan. 15th, 2014 12:30 pm (UTC)
Ugh, I think having Spike sexually assault Buffy in the shower still is a grand case of character assassination, although it was only the culminating act of a season which seemed to revolve around making us hate everybody on the show. But mainly it seemed like a giant middle finger to the fans of the S/B pairing and redemptionists.

I normally am much more a fan of taking a characters actions at the literal level, i.e. the way they act is the way they are, but in the case of season six, much of the characters behaviour only makes any sense if one applies the meta level of taking note of the writers hang-ups and interactions with fandom. I only say Willows sudden problems with "magic addiction", which made no sense whatsoever.

Edited at 2014-01-15 12:31 pm (UTC)
Jan. 17th, 2014 02:55 am (UTC)
I've got huge, huge problems with the storyline in general. Luckily this question didn't require me to go into them. *g*
Jan. 15th, 2014 03:25 pm (UTC)
(Xander and Buffy have a LOT in common.)

So true!
Jan. 17th, 2014 02:55 am (UTC)
Jan. 16th, 2014 10:18 am (UTC)
I agree with all your observations here and think they make perfect sense. But to be honest, even if Xander had been a hypocrite about this, I wouldn't have had any problem with that b/c it's realistic. It's not nice and it wouldn't do any credit to his character, but people don't always have logical reactions in real life, and if anything, Joss creates very realistic personalities in his shows (in my opinion, at least). Like you said, Xander projects his own issues on the situation in some way, and that seems natural to me.
Jan. 17th, 2014 02:56 am (UTC)
Uh huh. There really isn't a single character who hasn't done something awful. :/
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 17th, 2014 03:15 am (UTC)
I suppose it depends on how you see vampires. The way vampires act and talk about themselves on the show doesn't, to me, line up with the claim that they're totally different people. That's what the Watcher's Council says, and that's kind of a necessary thing to teach a Slayer who may be staking former friends and family and can't afford to hesitate. And it also may be a necessary thing for a vampire cursed with a soul who desperately needs to separate himself from his past self. But it's notable that even Angel usually refers to himself as the same person as Angelus. He doesn't talk about stuff that other guy did, he talks about what he did.

I see vampires as a single person composed of the demon essence and the human memories. The demon part provides bloodlust and an urge to violence and destruction, (when we see the vampire demon in Pylea, it's just a mindless animal) and the human part provides everything else. Basically, Spike's not controlled by a demon, he IS a demon. Giving him his soul back adds a conscience into the mix, but it doesn't add some extra "William" personality.

I fell in love with Spike the character long before there was any possibility he'd get a soul. And if giving him a soul means he's literally a different person, he's not the character I fell for. He's not the character who defied his own nature to do things no demon was supposed to do, and want things no demon was supposed to want. And if he's not that character anymore, well, why should I give a hoot about him?

The problem with saying that Spike's not responsible for the bad things he did unsouled is that that means he's not responsible for the good things he did while unsouled either. And the good things Spike did while unsouled are what makes him extraordinary.
Jan. 19th, 2014 05:27 am (UTC)
I agree that Xander is really not responsible for assaulting Buffy in The Pack due to being possessed, and Spike is responsible for his actions in Seeing Red. (However I do wonder at the repercussions of Principal Flutey being eaten by the other kids. Murder by eating [whether possessed by hyenas or not] can't just be waved away.) Personally I find Xander's treatment of Willow more upsetting due to her vulnerability, whereas Buffy can smack possessed Xander around as she pleases.

And I think it is acceptable for Xander to be angry at Spike and protective of Buffy about the attempted rape. However the reason I feel loathing towards Xander and just feel sorry for Spike at the end of Seeing Red is because Xander's attitude to Spike is generally contaminated, no matter how good Spike is. Xander (like Buffy) has been happy since halfway through season 5 to be "friendly" to Spike when it suits him and to be happy to be helped by him when Buffy is dead. As soon as Buffy is back from the dead, he starts treating Spike with contempt again, even when Spike is right or behaving well. They both use him. And when it suits them, they bring out the "you're just a filthy thing", whether he deserves it or not. It is a deeply contemptuous expression which makes me angry every time I hear it. It says: I'll treat you like a person, when it suits me to make use of you; when it doesn't, you are a non-person, a non-human, you come further down the moral scale than a dog or some other beast, and deserve no consideration. In that scene outside the Magic Shop when Buffy and Xander confront Spike and Anya, Xander's rage is sexual jealousy, contaminated by that contempt. It's brutal humiliation. It reminds me of how a white man in a racist society would treat a black man who dared touch his woman.

So when a degraded and humiliated Spike attacks Buffy, yeah, it's not a good thing. But he has no physical advantage over her, and when Xander gets angry there, I just have no interest in his attitude to Spike any more. He has discounted himself.
Jan. 23rd, 2014 03:52 am (UTC)
Was watching late S2 tonight and was startled to realize in Phases that Xander had an opportunity to talk about it.

When he, Buffy, Giles and Willow are conferring in the library, Xander claims to have insight on the mysterious werewolf who's terrorizing Sunnydale, because of his earlier experiences as a hyena.

Buffy points out that Xander claimed not to remember. Xander laughs nervously and changes the subject.

I wish the show had followed up. But I guess that's what fic is for. *g*
( 22 comments — Leave a comment )

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